With Memorial Day past us, it’s now time for teams to assess what they have, and start making moves as they prepare for the stretch run.
No team has been more puzzling this season then the Chicago Cubs. Everyone knows they are mired in a 100-year World Series drought, but after running away with the NL Central the last two seasons, many thought this would be the year. It hasn’t. Injuries have taken this team by storm.
The big offseason acquisition, Milton Bradley, has been a bust so far. Bradley, who was supposed to bring some left-handed pop to a predominantly right-handed lineup, is hitting a paltry .187 with 4 hr’s and just 9 rbi’s.
Mike Fontenot, who began the season as the starting second baseman after the Cubs traded super utility man Mark Derosa to the Indians, has been so bad that manager Lou Pinella is considering bringing Alfonso Soriano in from left field to play the position.
Fontenot is hitting just .208, after hitting .305 last season, and has just four hits in his last 34 at-bats. Pinella has been forced to start him at third base however in Aramis Ramirez’s absence because of a lack of corner infielders on the bench.
The pitching staff has also taken some hits as well. Carlos Zambrano hit the 15-day DL earlier this season with a hamstring injury. He returned last week against the Padres but only lasted 4 2/3 innings, gave up three runs and struck out seven.
The Cubbies were hoping to get six innings out of their ace, but the seven k’s had to be taken as a positive.
Hard-throwing and oftinjuried right-hander Rich Harden hit the 15-day DL again last week. Harden, who was 4-2 before going on the DL with a mild back strain, was a key piece of the Cubs run to a division title last season. The flame-thrower went 5-1 with a 1.77 era in 12 starts after being acquired at the trade deadline from the Athletics.
Ryan Dempster, who enjoyed a career year last season going 17-6, has struggled this so far this season. Dempster is just 3-3 with a 4.40 era.
If the Cubs want to repeat their success of the last two seasons, Dempster, Harden, and Zambrano need to start pitching better. The Cubs have lost seven in a row and currently sit four games back of division leading Milwalkee in a tightly contested NL Central.
So much for the great start for the Blue Jays. On May 15, the rolling Jays were an AL best 24-14, led the AL East by a game and a half, and looked primed to make their first postseason run since winning it all in 1993.
Fast-forward 10 days and the Jays now sit in third place, a game and a half back of the division leading Red Sox after losing a season high seven in a row.
The problem? The offense has disappeared. Adam Lind, Vernon Wells, and Marco Scutaro, who carried the offense for much of the first month and a half, have stopped hitting. During the current losing streak, Lind is just 2 for 24 without an rbi, Wells is 6 for 28 with no rbi’s, and Scutaro was only 6 for 26 without a run scored.
Aaron Hill has continued to stay hot though and is still hitting a ridiculous .350, and right fielder Alex Rios was beginning to heat up before the losing streak.
There appears to be a significant amount of hope for the Jays however. The Jays starting rotation was hit hard by injuries early this season, but it now looks like they will be getting some of their bright young starters back soon.
Ricky Romero, who was 2-0 with a 1.71 era in 3 starts before going on the DL with a strained oblique, was activated Friday along with fellow started Casey Janssen. BJ Ryan was activated off the DL Thursday and should provide more depth to a bullpen that has struggled the last few weeks.
What an interesting week it was for those amazin’ Mets. After getting swept out of Chavez Ravine by the Dodgers, the Mets traveled back across the country to take on the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
After a gutsy seven-inning performance by ace Johan Santana in a 5-3 Mets win Friday night, Omir Santos played hero on Saturday. With the Mets trailing 2-1 with 2 outs in the ninth and Gary Sheffield on first, Santos took a first pitch 97-mph fastball from Jonathon Papelbon over the Green Monster to give the Mets a 3-2 lead.
Great defensive plays in the bottom half of the inning by David Wright, Luis Castillo, and Ramon Martinez secured the win. The win Saturday night definitely made the 12-5 loss on Sunday sting a little bit less.
Ramon Martinez had quite the week. After Jose Reyes was unable to go on Monday, and Alex Cora was put on the DL with a torn ligament in his throwing hand, Martinez was flown across the country in order to start at shortstop in that night’s game.
To say it kindly, Martinez did not have great three days in LA. He arrived just 15 minutes prior to Monday night’s game and proceeded to make two errors at shortstop a position he does not usually play.
Tuesday night might have been his roughest. Martinez went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and grounded into a double play in the eighth inning with the tying runs on base in a 5-3 loss. Another 0’fer followed on Wednesday before Martinez turned it around in Boston.
He picked up a key rbi single on Friday night and made some great defensive plays in the final two games to save some runs. Yes he is not the long-term solution at shortstop while Reyes is out, but he has showed some guts after getting thrown to the wolves his first two games back.
Martinez was key down the stretch for the Mets last season, supplying some big games at second base, and because of that, Jerry Manuel seems inclined to give him some time at short instead of going with some other farmhand option such as Argenis Reyes.
Big losses for both the Brewers and Rays at second base this week. Rickie Weeks, who finally looked primed for a big year under the tutelage of Willie Randolph, will miss the remainder of the season after shredding his wrist last Sunday.
Akinori Iwamura, who recorded the last out in the ALCS against the Red Sox last season, will also miss the rest of the year after tearing a ligament in his left knee trying to turn a double play.
So much for the slow start for David Wright. Prior to Monday night’s game, Wright was hitting .350 (56 for 150) including an astonishing .519 (14 for 27) against left-handed pitching.
No one had a more interesting week then the Padres. After unsuccessfully trying to trade ace Jake Peavy to the White Sox, GM Kevin Towers then decided to pick up Tony Gwynn. Tony Gwynn Jr. that is. The Padres pulled of the deal by trading away center fielder Jody Gerut to the Brewers to get the most famous Padres’ son.
Gwynn Jr. started in centerfield on Saturday night and went 2 for 4 out of the leadoff spot. He chose not to wear his father’s number 19 and will instead wear 18. Interesting note, as of Monday, the Padres had won nine in a row to climb back to .500 and are now 17-6 at home at 5-16 on the road.
Now onto the weekly awards.
AL Player of the Week: Michael Cuddeyer, OF, Minnesota Twins. Cuddeyer continued to stay hot hitting .446 (13 for 29) with 4 hr’s, 12 rbi’s, nd 10 runs scored. Along with Joe Mauer, Cuddyer helped lead the Twins to a 4-2 week
AL Pitcher of the Week: CC Sabathia, LHP, New York Yankees. Despite only getting the win in one of his starts, Sabathia was dominant in both.
The Yankees ace went seven innings and allowed just three hits last Monday in Baltimore to record the victory before pitching eight strong innings Sunday against the Phillies. After some early season struggles, Sabathia appears to have it all figured out and rolling for the red-hot Yanks.
NL Player of the Week: Mark Reynolds, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks. Don’t ask Mark Reynolds why the D’backs can’t consistently win ball games. The third baseman, who set a major league record by striking out 203 times last season hit .357 (10 for 28) with 4 hr’s, 9 rbi’s and a cool six steals. When the free-swinging slugger connects, the ball flys off his bat and that showed this week.
NL Pitcher of the Week: Derek Lowe, RHP, Atlanta Braves. Lowe allowed just 8 hits in 15 2/3 innings against the Rockies and Blue Jays. Despite taking the loss Monday against the Rockies, Lowe allowed just three hits in eight innings and was even better against the Blue Jays on Saturday, pitching 7 1/3 innings to record the victory.
Harlan Green-Taub is a contributor to HowBoutThemMets.com.